As Career Technical Education (CTE) Month draws to a close, we reflect on the collective successes of our community and the work still to be done. The 21st-century economy creates new, skilled careers faster than ever, and CTE programs are well-positioned to prepare learners — both youth and adults — for these opportunities. As evidence of the existing skills gap, nearly 60 percent of companies report having difficulty filling job openings because of a lack of qualified applicants, which can cost companies large and small millions of dollars per year in lost productivity and recruitment. This is while millions of workers remain underemployed, or in careers that do not align with their skills.
There is a strong evidence base that CTE works! Eighty-six percent of those who concentrate in CTE — meaning they took an intentional sequence of courses — either continue their education or were employed within six months of completing their program. CTE cuts down on the high school dropout rate, saving our economy $168 billion per year while sending students to postsecondary education just as often as non-CTE students. Since 2011, 80,000 jobs that require a high school diploma or less have been created, while 11.5 million careers for workers with some postsecondary education have been added. CTE fills the skills gap while igniting the passions of the next generation.
CTE programs can serve even more students, helping them climb up the ladder of economic prosperity, but only with more resources. Between 2004 and 2017, the federal investment has declined by over $77 million dollars, without accounting for inflation. Taking a longer view, the investment in Perkins was relatively flat between 1991 and 2017, and its buying power has fallen by approximately $933 million in inflation-adjusted dollars, a 45 percent reduction over a quarter-century. This is felt by programs across the country. A survey of school districts offering CTE found that the top barrier to offering CTE in high school was insufficient funding, coupled with the high cost of programs.
This month, the White House budget called for a historic $900 million dollar increase in the federal investment in CTE. These funds will help foster quality, equity and innovation. While this infusion of new resources in CTE is long overdue, the budget proposal regrettably cuts many social, educational and workforce programs that work in concert with CTE to support learner success. We implore Congress to make this new, much-needed investment in CTE, while rejecting the cuts to other supporting programs essential to ensuring each learner in the nation has the opportunity and access to well-paying careers.
Kimberly Green is the Executive Director of Advance CTE, which represents state leaders of Career Technical Education. For the past twenty-four years, Kimberly A. Green has worked extensively on federal policy impacting CTE. Working closely with Congress, the administration and a broad range of stakeholders, she represents the interests of and seeks support for CTE. You can reach Ms. Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LeAnn Wilson is the executive director of the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), which represents tens of thousands of education professionals and is the nation’s largest not-for-profit association committed to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for successful careers. You can reach Ms. Wilson at email@example.com.